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 While arranging for young Bastow being sent out with the first batch of convicts John Thorndyke had been introduced to several of the officials of the Department, and called upon them at intervals to obtain news of the penal colony. Three years after its establishment a Crown colony had been opened for settlement in its vicinity. As the climate was said to be very fine and the country fertile, and land could be taken up without payment, the number who went out was considerable, there being the additional attraction that convicts of good character would be allotted to settlers as servants and farm hands. Six years after Arthur Bastow sailed the Squire learned that there had been a revolt among the convicts; several had been killed, and the mutiny suppressed, but about a dozen had succeeded in getting away. These had committed several robberies and some murders among the settlers, and a military force and a party of warders from the prison were scouring the country for them.
“Of course, Mr. Thorndyke,” the official said, “the Governor in his report does not gives us the names of any of those concerned in the matter; he simply says that although the mutiny was general, it was wholly the work of a small number of the worse class of prisoners. By worse class he means the most troublesome and refractory out there. The prisoners are not classified according to their original crimes. A poacher who has killed a game keeper, or a smuggler who has killed a revenue officer, may in other respects be a quiet and well conducted man, while men sentenced for comparatively minor offenses may give an immense deal of trouble. I will, however, get a letter written to the Governor, asking him if Arthur Bastow was among those who took part in the revolt, and if so what has become of him.”
It was more than a year before the reply came, and then the Governor reported that Arthur Bastow, who was believed to have been the leading spirit of the mutiny, was among those who had escaped, and had not yet been recaptured. It was generally believed that he had been killed by the blacks, but of this there was no actual proof.
Mr. Bastow was much disturbed when he heard the news. “Suppose he comes back here, Mr. Thorndyke.”
“I won't suppose anything of the sort,” the Squire replied. “I don't say that it would be altogether impossible, because now that vessels go from time to time to Sydney, he might, of course, be able to hide up in one of them, and not come on deck until she was well on her way, when, in all probability, he would be allowed to work his passage, and might be put ashore without any information being given to the authorities. I have no doubt that among the sailors there would be a good deal of sympathy felt for the convicts. No doubt they have a hard time of it, and we know that the gangs working on the roads are always ironed. Still, this is very unlikely, and the chances are all in favor of his being in hiding in the bush.
“The shepherds and other hands on the farms are chiefly convicts, and would probably give him aid if he required it, and there would be no difficulty in getting a sheep, now and then, for, as all reports say, one of the chief troubles out there are the wild dogs, or dingoes, as they are called; any loss in that way would readily be put down to them. As to money, he would have no occasion for it; if he wanted it he would get it by robbing the settlers, he would know that if he came back here he would run the risk of being seized at once on landing or of being speedily hunted down as an escaped convict. I don't think that there is the slightest occasion for us to trouble ourselves about him.”
But though the Squire spoke so confidently, he felt by no means sure that Arthur Bastow would not turn up again, for his reckless audacity had made a great impression upon him. The proceeds of the robberies in the colony, in which he had no doubt played a part, would have furnished him with money with which he could bribe a sailor to hide him away and, if necessary, pay his passage money to England, when discovered on board, and perhaps maintain him when he got home until he could replenish his purse by some unlawful means. Lastly, the Squire argued that the fellow's vindictive nature and longing for revenge would act as an incentive to bring him back to London. He talked the matter over with Mark, who was now a powerful young fellow of twenty, who, of course, remembered the incidents attending Bastow's capture and trial.
“I cannot help fancying that the fellow will come back, Mark.”
“Well, if he does, father, we must make it our business to lay him by the heels again. You managed it last time, and if he should turn up you may be sure I will help you to do it again.”
“Yes, but we may not hear of his having returned until he strikes a blow. At any rate, see that your pistols are loaded and close at hand at night.”
“They always are, father. There is no saying when a house like this, standing alone, and containing a good deal of plate and valuables, may be broken into.”
“Well, you might as well carry them always when you go out after dark. I shall speak to Knapp, and request him to let me know if he hears of a suspicious looking character—any stranger, in fact—being noticed in or about the village, and I shall have a talk with Simeox, the head constable at Reigate, and ask him to do the same. He is not the same man who was head at the time Bastow was up before us, but he was in the force then, and, as one of the constables who came up to take the prisoners down to Reigate, he will have all the facts in his mind. He is a sharp fellow, and though Bastow has no doubt changed a good deal since then, he would hardly fail to recognize him if his eye fell upon him. Of course we may be alarming ourselves unnecessarily, but there are several reasons why I should object strongly to be shot just at the present time.”
“Or at any other time, I should say, father,” the young man said with a laugh.
“I shall know him, Squire, safe enough,” the head constable replied when John Thorndyke went down to see him on the following day; “but I should think that if he does come back to England he will hardly be fool enough to come down here. He was pretty well known in town before that affair, and everyone who was in the courthouse would be sure to have his face strongly impressed upon their minds. You may forget a man you have seen casually, but you don't forget one you have watched closely when he is in the dock with two others charged with murder. Five out of my six men were constables at that time, and would know him again the minute they saw him; but anyhow, I will tell them to keep a sharp lookout in the tramps' quarters, and especially over the two or three men still here that Bastow used to consort with. I should say that Reigate is the last place in the world where he would show his face.”
“I hope so,” the Squire said. “He has caused trouble enough down here as it is; his father is getting an old man now, and is by no means strong, and fresh troubles of that kind would undoubtedly kill him.”
A month later the Reigate coach was stopped when a short distance out of the town by two highwaymen, and a considerable prize obtained by the robbers. Soon afterwards came news of private carriages being stopped on various commons in the South of London, and of several burglaries taking place among the houses round Clapham, Wandsworth, and Putney. Such events were by no means uncommon, but following each other in such quick succession they created a strong feeling of alarm among the inhabitants of the neighborhood. John Thorndyke, going up to town shortly afterwards, went to the headquarters of the Bow Street runners, and had a talk with their chief in reference especially to the stoppage of the Reigate coach. Mr. Chetwynd had lately died, and John Thorndyke had been unanimously elected by his fellow magistrates as chairman of the bench.
“No, Mr. Thorndyke, we have no clew whatever. Our men have been keeping the sharpest watch over the fellows suspected of having a hand in such matters, but they all seem keeping pretty quiet at present, and none of them seem to be particularly flush with money. It is the same with these burglaries in the South of London. We are at our wits' end about them. We are flooded with letters of complaint from residents; but though the patrols on the common have been doubled and every effort made, we are as far off as ever. As far as the burglaries are concerned, we have every reason to think that they are the work of two or three new hands. The jobs are not neatly done, and certainly not with tools usually used by burglars. They seem to rely upon daring rather than skill. Anyhow, we don't know where to look for them, and are altogether at sea.
“Of course it is as annoying to us as it is to anyone else; more so, because the Justices of the Peace are sending complaints to the Home Secretary, and he in turn drops on us and wants to know what we are doing. I have a sort of fancy myself the fellows who are stopping the coaches are the same as those concerned in the burglaries. I could not give you my reasons for saying so, except that on no occasion has a coach been stopped and a house broken into on the same night. I fancy that at present we shan't hear much more of them. They have created such alarm that the coaches carry with them two men armed with blunderbusses, in addition to the guards, and I should fancy that every householder sleeps with pistols within reach, and has got arms for his servants. At many of the large houses I know a watchman has been engaged to sit in the hall all night, to ring the alarm bell and wake the inmates directly he hears any suspicious sounds. Perhaps the fellows may be quiet for a time, for they must, during the last month, have got a wonderful amount of spoil. Maybe they will go west—the Bath road is always a favorite one with these fellows—maybe they will work the northern side of the town. I hope we shall lay hands upon them one day, but so far I may say frankly we have not the slightest clew.”
“But they must put their horses up somewhere?”
“Yes, but unfortunately there are so many small wayside inns, that it is next to impossible to trace them. A number of these fellows are in alliance with the highwaymen. Some of them, too, have small farms in addition to their public house businesses, and the horses may be snugly put up there, while we are searching the inn stables in vain. Again, there are rogues even among the farmers themselves; little men, perhaps, who do not farm more than thirty or forty acres, either working them themselves, or by the aid of a hired man who lives perhaps at a village a mile away. To a man of this kind, the offer of a couple of guineas a week to keep two horses in an empty cowshed, and to ask no questions, is a heavy temptation.
“We have got two clever fellows going about the country inquiring at all the villages whether two mounted men have lately been heard going through there late at night, or early in the morning, so as to narrow down the area to be searched, but nothing has come of it, although I am pretty sure that they must have three or four places they use in various directions. My men have picked up stories of horsemen being heard occasionally, but they come from various directions, and nowhere have they been noticed with any regularity. Besides, there are other knights of the road about, so we are no nearer than we were on that line of inquiry.”
A month later John Thorndyke had occasion to go up again to town. This time Mark accompanied him. Both carried pistols, as did the groom, sitting behind them. The Squire himself was but a poor shot, but Mark had practiced a great deal.
“'Tis a good thing to be able to shoot straight, Mark,” his father had said to him three years before. “I abhor dueling, but there is so much of it at present that any gentlemen might find himself in a position when he must either go out or submit to be considered a coward. Then, too, the roads are infested by highwaymen. For that reason alone it would be well that a man should be able to shoot straight. You should also practice sometimes at night, setting up some object at a distance so that you can just make out its outline, and taking a dozen shots at it. I know it is very difficult when you cannot see your own pistol, but you can soon learn to trust to your arm to come up to the right height and in the right direction. Of course you must wait until morning to find out where your bullet has gone.”
Two days after they had reached town the Squire received a letter from Mrs. Cunningham.
“Knapp has been up this morning to tell me that a stranger dismounted yesterday at the alehouse, and while his horse was being fed he asked a few questions. Among others, he wished to be told if you were at home, saying that he had known you some fifteen years ago, when you lived near Hastings, and should like to have a talk with you again. In fact, he had turned off from the main road for the purpose. He seemed disappointed when he heard that you had gone up to town, and hearing that you might not be back for three or four days, said he should be coming back through Reigate in a week or ten days, and he dared say he should be able to find time to call again. Knapp did not hear about it until this morning; he asked the landlord about the man, and the landlord said he was about thirty, dark, and sparely built. He did not notice his horse particularly, seeing that it was such as a small squire or farmer might ride. He carried a brace of pistols in his holsters. The landlord was not prepossessed with his appearance, and it was that that made him speak to Knapp about him. I have told the men to unfasten the dogs every night, and I have asked Knapp to send up two trustworthy men to keep watch.”
“It may mean something, and it may not,” the Squire said, as he handed the letter to Mark. “It is a suspicious looking circumstance; if the fellow had been honest he would surely have said something about himself. There is no doubt these housebreakers generally find out what chance there is of resistance, and, hearing that we were both away, may have decided on making an attempt. I have pretty well finished our business and ordered nearly all the provisions that Mrs. Cunningham requires. But I have to call at my lawyer's, and that is generally a longish business. It is half past two o'clock now; if we start from here at five we shall be down soon after eight, which will be quite soon enough. We shall have a couple of hours' drive in the dark, but that won't matter, we have got the lamps.”
“I am quite ready to start, father. I am engaged to sup with Reginald Ascot, but I will go over this afternoon and make my excuses.”
At five o'clock they started. “You have got your pistols in order, Mark?” the Squire asked, as they drove over London Bridge.
“I have them handy, father, one in each pocket.”
“James, are your pistols charged?”
“Yes, sir.”
At six o'clock it was beginning to get dusk, and they stopped while the groom got down and lit the lamps; then they resumed their journey. They were within five miles of Reigate when suddenly two horsemen rode out from a side road with a shout of “Stand and deliver!”
The Squire lashed the horses, and a moment later a pistol was fired, and the ball went through his hat. By the light of the lamps Mark saw the other man raise his hand, and, leveling his pistol, fired on the instant; then, as there was no reply to his shot, he discharged the second barrel at the first who had fired, and who had at once drawn another pistol. The two reports rang out almost at the same moment, but Mark's was a little the first. There was a sharp exclamation of pain from the highwayman, who wrenched round his horse and galloped down the lane from which he had issued, the groom sending two bullets after him.
“Where is the other man?” Mark exclaimed, as his father reined in the horses.
“Somewhere on the ground there, Mark; I saw him fall from his saddle as we passed him.”
“Is it any use pursuing the other, father? I am pretty sure I hit him.”
“I am quite sure you did, but it is no good our following; the side roads are so cut up by ruts that we should break a spring before we had gone a hundred yards. No, we will stop and look at this fellow who is unhorsed, Mark.”
The groom got down, and, taking one of the carriage lamps, proceeded to a spot where the highwayman's horse was standing. The man was already dead, the bullet having hit him a few inches above the heart.
“He is dead, father.”
“I think you had better lift him up on the foot board behind; James can ride his horse. We will hand the body over to the constable at Reigate. He may know who he is, or find something upon him that may afford a clew that will lead to the capture of his companion.”
“No, I don't know him, Squire,” the constable said as they stopped before his house and told him what had happened. “However, he certainly is dead, and I will get one of the men to help me carry him into the shed behind the courthouse. So you say that you think that the other is wounded?”
“I am pretty sure he is. I heard him give an exclamation as my son fired.”
“That is good shooting, Mr. Mark,” the constable said. “If every passenger could use his arms as you do there would soon be an end to stopping coaches. I will see what he has got about him, and will come up and let you know, Squire, the first thing in the morning.”
“I will send Knapp down,” John Thorndyke said, as they drove homewards. “I am rather curious to know if this fellow is the same Mrs. Cunningham wrote about. I will tell him to take Peters along with him.”
“I hardly see that there can be any connection between the two. Highwaymen don't go in for house breaking. I think they consider that to be a lower branch of the profession.”
“Generally they do, no doubt, Mark; but you know I told you that the chief at Bow Street said that he had a suspicion that the highway robbers and the house breakers who have been creating so much alarm are the same men.”
“It is curious that they should have happened to light on us, father, if they were intending to break into our house.”
John Thorndyke made no reply, and in a few minutes drove up to the house. Their return, a couple of days before they were expected, caused great satisfaction to Mrs. Cunningham and Millicent. The former, however, had wisely kept from the girl the matter on which she had written to the Squire, and the suspicion she had herself entertained.
“It is very dull without you both,” Millicent said. “I was telling Mrs. Cunningham that I thought it would be a good thing, when you got back, for us two to take a run up to town for a week, just to let you see how dull the place is when two of us are away. You are looking quite serious, uncle. Is anything the matter?”
“Happily nothing is the matter with us, dear, but we have had an adventure, and not a very pleasant one.”
“What was it?” the girl asked.
“If you examine my hat closely, Millicent, it will tell you.”
The girl took up the hat from a chair on which he had put it, and brought it to the light. “There are two holes in it,” she said. “Oh, Guardy, have you been shot at?”
“It looks like it, dear. Two gentlemen highwaymen—at least, that is what I believe they call themselves—asked us pressingly to stop, and as we would not comply with their request, one fired at me, and, as you see, it was an uncommonly good shot. The other was about to fire when Mark's pistol put a stop to him, and his second barrel stopped the fellow who had fired first; he was hit, for we heard him give an exclamation of pain, but before any more shooting could be done he turned and rode off down a narrow lane where we could not follow.”
“And what became of the first?” Millicent asked with open eyes.
“He was dead before we could get down to examine him; he will not disturb the King's peace again. It happened about four miles from home, so we brought him in and gave him and his horse into the charge of the constable at Reigate.”
“And you have really killed a man?” Millicent said, looking up with an awestruck expression to Mark.
“Well, as the man would have killed us if I hadn't, I cannot say, Millicent, that his death weighs in any way heavily on my mind. If he were as good a shot as the other, my father's life would not have been worth much, for as we were driving fast, he was not above half as far away as the other had been when he fired. Just the same, I suppose, as it would be in a battle; a man is going to shoot you, and you shoot him first, and I don't suppose it ever troubles you afterwards.”
“Of course I don't mean that I blame you, Mark; but it does seem shocking.”
“I don't suppose you would think that, Millicent, if a burglar, who had taken one shot at you and was about to finish you with another, was cut short in the operation by a shot from my pistol. I believe that your relief and thankfulness would be so great that the idea that it was a shocking thing for me to do would not as much as enter your head.”
“I wish you had shot the other man as well as the one you did, Mark,” the Squire said, as he walked with his son down to Reigate to attend the inquest the next morning on the man he had brought in. Mark looked at his father in surprise.
“There is no doubt I hit him, father,” he said; “but I should not think that he will be likely to trouble us again.”
“I wish I felt quite sure of that. Do you know that I have a strong suspicion that it was Arthur Bastow?”
Mark had, of course, heard of Bastow's escape, but had attached no great importance to it. The crime had taken place nearly eight years before, and although greatly impressed at the time by the ill doings of the man, the idea that he would ever return and endeavor to avenge himself on his father for the part he had taken had not occurred to him. Beyond mentioning his escape, the Squire had never talked to him on the subject.
“It was he who bade us stand and deliver, and the moment he spoke the voice seemed familiar to me, and, thinking it over, I have an impression that it was his. I may be mistaken, for I have had him in my mind ever since I heard that he had escaped, and may therefore have connected the voice with him erroneously, and yet I cannot but think that I was right. You see, there are two or three suspicious circumstances. In the first place, there was this man down here making inquiries. Knapp went down early this morning with the innkeeper, and told me before breakfast that Peters at once recognized the fellow you shot as the man who had made the inquiries. Now, the natural result of making inquiries would have been that the two men would the next evening have broken into the house, thinking that during our absence they would meet with no resistance. Instead of doing this they waylaid us on the road, which looks as if it was me they intended to attack, and not the house.”
“But how could they have known that it was us, father? It is certainly singular that one of the two men should have been the fellow who was up at the inn, but it may be only a matter of coincidence.”
“I don't know, Mark; I don't say that singular coincidences don't occur, but I have not much faith in them. Still, if they were journeying down to attack the house last night they would hardly have stopped travelers by the way when there was a rich booty awaiting them, as they evidently believed there was, or that man would not have come down specially to make inquiries. My own impression is that when they heard that we should return in two or three days one of them watched us in London, and as soon as they learned that we were to start for home at five o'clock they came down here to stop us. They would hardly have done that merely to get our watches and what money we had in our pockets.”
“No, I should think not, father; but they might be friends of men who have got into trouble at Reigate, and, as you are chairman of the bench, may have had a special grudge against you for their conviction.”
“That is, of course, possible, and I hope that it is so.”
“But even if Arthur Bastow had escaped, father, why should he come back to England, where he would know that he might be arrested again, instead of staying quietly out in Australia?”
“There are two reasons. In the first place the life out there would not be a quiet one; there would be nothing for him but to attack and rob the settlers, and this, as they are sure to be armed, is a pretty dangerous business. Then there are perils from the blacks, and lastly, such a life would be absolutely devoid of comfort, and be that of a hunted dog; living always in the bush, scarcely venturing to sleep lest he should be pounced upon either by the armed constables of the colony or by the blacks. It is not as if the country were extensively populated; there are not a very large number of settlers there yet, and therefore very small scope for robbers. These people would keep very little money with them, and the amount of plunder to be got would be small indeed. Therefore, I take it that the main object of any escaped convict would be to get away from the place.
“That is one of the reasons why the fellow might come back to England in spite of the risks. The other is that I believe him to be so diabolically vindictive that he would run almost any peril in order to obtain revenge upon me or his father. Twice he has threatened me, the first time when we captured him, the second time as he left the court after he had received his sentence. I am not a coward, so far as I know, Mark, but I am as certain as I stand here that he meant what he said, and that, during these years of imprisonment and toil out there, he has been cherishing the thought of coming home some day and getting even with me. You see, he is said to have been the leader of this convict revolt. There is no doubting his daring, and to my mind the attack upon us last night, when they knew that they could have managed a successful robbery here, points to the fact that it was the result of personal animosity, and strengthens my belief that it was Arthur Bastow who called upon us to stand and deliver.”
“It is a very unpleasant idea, father.”
“Very unpleasant, and it seems to me that we should at any rate spare no pains in hunting the man you wounded down.”
“I will undertake that if you like. I have nothing particular to do, and it would be an excitement. You have a lot to keep you here.”
“I don't fancy that you will find it an excitement, Mark, for of course the detectives will do the hunting, but I should certainly be glad if you would take a letter for me to the head of the Detective Department, and tell him what I think, and my reasons for thinking so, and say that I offer a reward of a hundred pounds for the capture of the man who tried to stop us, and who was, we are certain, wounded by you. Unless he has some marvelously out of the way hiding place, it ought not to be difficult. A wounded man could scarcely lie hidden in the slums of London without it being known to a good many people, to some of whom a reward of the sum of a hundred pounds would be an irresistible temptation.”
By this time they had reached Reigate. The inquest did not last many minutes, and the jury without hesitation returned a verdict of justifiable homicide.

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